Out Gay Skater on Thin Ice for Sochi Olympics

by Winnie McCroy

EDGE Editor

Monday December 9, 2013

Despite his promise to be out and proud at the Sochi Olympics this February, openly gay New Zealand speed skater Blake Skjellerup failed to qualify for the games.

Outsports reports, the athlete fell short on an automatic bid for the 500-meter race by one spot.

This is a big disappointment both for Skjellerup and for his legions of LGBT fans, who were thrilled last month when he promised that he would be wear his rainbow pin at Sochi, regardless of Russian President Vladimir Putin's anti-gay propaganda law.

The law makes it a crime for anyone to promote "non-traditional sexual relations," with fines of up to 5,000 rubles for individuals, and up to 500,000 for businesses and schools.

"I will be myself in Russia. And at the moment that is illegal. My goal is to inspire, encourage and offer support to LGBT people in Russia," said Skjellerup.

According to Outsports, Skjellerup did compete as an openly gay man in Russia for the final leg of the Speed Skating World Cup last month. The Russian government knew he was openly gay, as did the Ministry of Sport, and he was allowed to compete without incident, and returned from Russia safely.

Since Skjellerup finished 33rd after 32 automatic bids for the world rankings of the 500-meter, he is the first alternate, meaning if any qualifying nations choose not to send a speed skater, Skjellerup may still have a chance to get to the Olympics. Other than Skjellerup, there are currently no publicly out male athletes competing at Sochi, reports Towleroad.

Winnie McCroy is the Women on the EDGE Editor, HIV/Health Editor, and Assistant Entertainment Editor for EDGE Media Network, handling all women's news, HIV health stories and theater reviews throughout the U.S. She has contributed to other publications, including The Village Voice, Gay City News, Chelsea Now and The Advocate, and lives in Brooklyn, New York.